Editorial

EDITORIAL: Comcast vs. the Legacy of Civil Rights

Despite efforts by do-the-right-thing committed corporations and institutions with demonstrated efforts to make amends for past injustices, whether their own or in general, they often find themselves in the bullseye of a battle calling into question their commitment to civil rights. We could name dozens, but today it’s Comcast, the multibillion-dollar telecommunications company, that is a party to a Supreme Court case that seeks to understand why it refused an African American-owned media company access to its cable network.

We are proud of the achievements of Byron Allen, owner of the Weather Channel and several other channels under his banner of Entertainment Studios, the largest African-American-owned media company in the U.S. We are also concerned that Comcast, one of only a handful of U.S. companies with a demonstrated commitment to diversity, is presently at odds with Allen and the majority of civil rights organizations engaged in this case. Groups, including the NAACP, argue that Comcast’s position in the Comcast vs. National Association of African American-Owned Media and Entertainment Studios Networks, Inc., which Allen owns, could negatively impact Section 1981 of the Civil Rights Act of 1866.

At issue is Allen’s $20 billion claim that Comcast’s refusal to air several of his television networks is based on race and that the Supreme Court, set to hear the case in November, could issue a ruling that would roll back the 150-year-old Act which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color and ethnicity regarding making and enforcing contracts, a move supported by the current DOJ and pushed by the Trump Administration.

The NAACP stated: “In several weeks, the Supreme Court will hear one of the most important civil rights cases to come before it this term. Comcast — the second-largest broadcasting and cable television company in the world — is poised to take an unprecedented step. Because of a dispute with a Black businessman, the company has urged the Supreme Court to roll back the crucial protections of one of the nation’s oldest civil rights laws, Section 1981 of the Civil Rights Act of 1866.

Comcast has been a partner with the Black Press and many other Black organizations and causes, more so than most of its counterparts. They’ve received praises over Internet Essentials, a program that provides Internet access to many of the underserved communities across the country. But it appears Comcast has found itself in an unpopular position in the eyes of civil rights groups whose support it must work to regain after the battle in the Supreme Court ends.

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